I have added a few more books to my reading list for 2008. Like I have said before, not every book was a good book, but every book gives me an opportunity to dialogue. If you would like to dialogue further about any of these books mentioned here or those I have listed elsewhere on the blog, by all means write me.
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho and Alan R. Clarke. The story is a simple fable, a bit inspiring, and twenty years later still influential to the vast numbers who have read it. It is a journey, and what I am about to say will sound cliché, towards spiritual enlightenment.
The Shack, by William P. Young. This is not a book I would ordinarily read but due to its popularity among many church members and that many fundamentalists have marked it as heresy, I had to read it. My thoughts are mixed. First, the author does a reasonable job in creating a “fantasy” envisioning the Trinity. Because of that, a reader is given the opportunity to dialogue about such important theological ideas like Trinity, incarnation, theodicy (the problem of evil) and such. While there are plenty of gaps in his theology, I did not find them heretical. It was simply incomplete. Christians with an ultra-conservative bent may have a difficult time with how he portrays the trinity (using masculine and feminine images) but the book itself rightly denotes that God transcends gender. I thought the book was poorly written, and therefore made for laborious reading. I did not care much for the story line or how he developed the characters. He relied a little too heavy on ethic caricatures and stereotypes, which I found distracting. The book was rather clumsy as it attempted to fuse Biblical literalism with progressive theology. The book has been accused of universalism, but I don’t see that at all. Rather I think the author is still advocating Jesus as the Way, but that God’s love is generous and moves mysteriously through culture and time. Here again, I don’t think one should read too much into what he did say or did not.
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. Well written but dark and dismal as it reflects on the world following nuclear holocaust. I am not sure if I want to see the movie just because it is so hopeless and dismal.
Tar Baby by Toni Morrison. A wonderful book filled populated with rich and intense characters. Would you believe this was my first Morrison book? I will be reading more from her.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by Jean-Dominique Bauby. This is an amazing reflection of Bauby’s experiences since a stroke left him literally “frozen” within his body. He dictated his thoughts through blinks of his eye (the other he lost to the stroke). Even though he lived as if in a diving bell, his thoughts and imagination lifted beyond him as a butterfly. Both the book and the movie are worth the time.
Dog Man: An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain by Martha Sherrill. Great book! Morie Sawataishi nearly single handedly saved the Akita breed from extinction (is that the right word?). This beautifully written book reflects on his life, his culture, and his connection not just with his dogs but with the larger ecology.
Footsteps of the Fisherman, by Scott Walker. Walker is both a friend and fellow pastor. He is also a good Bible teacher. I used this book in a recent series of sermons that focused on what it means to follow Jesus. Walker teaches on the life of Peter and asks the reader to consider how his ancient life is relevant to our own.
Turtle Island, by Gary Snyder. While not one of my favorite collections of poetry, Turtle Island is an important contribution in the area of ecology and stewardship.